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Breathing in Fumes

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These have all the markings of Saturday Night Live parody commercials, but they’re real: the Competitive Enterprise Institute yesterday starting running a couple TV ads that aren’t just attempts to dispute the reality of global warming, they are pro-emissions (the message boils down to: carbon dioxide is essential to life + burning fossil fuelss releases carbon dioxide = emissions are good). Check out the one called “Energy,” at their website. I was surprised to see them use the image of a little girl blowing on a dandelion – it made me think of the little girl plucking a daisy in the famous ad Johnson ran against Goldwater (the one that ends with a nuclear explosion).

The timing of the release of these ads has to do with Al Gore’s new movie that comes out next week, An Inconvenient Truth. By the way, if you haven’t seen the clip of Gore on Saturday Night Live last week, check it out – who knew the man could be funny?

It’s probably not necessary for me to get into the mind-boggling, up-is-downism dishonesty of the CEI ads, but just in case:

…CO2 has been in the atmosphere since life on earth began, and in the right amounts CO2 is important for making the earth hospitable for continued life. But when too much CO2 is put into the atmosphere, its becomes harmful. We have long recognized this fact for other pollutants. For example, phosphorus is a valuable fertilizer, but in excess, it can kill lakes and streams by clogging them with a blanket of algae.

In the case of CO2, fossil fuels have stored carbon for hundreds of millions of years. Over the last 150 years, by burning fossil fuels, humans have released that carbon into the atmosphere in a geologic instant of time. We now are burning billions of tons of fossil fuels every year. This has caused CO2 to build up in the atmosphere much as an excessively rich diet causes life-threatening deposits to build up in human arteries. Scientists agree that if today’s fossil-fuel burning trend continues we will build up concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere at ever-increasing rates. This build-up of CO2 threatens our health and environment, just as excessive cholesterol threatens our bodies. Scientists expect accelerating global warming to trigger severe droughts, floods and storms; destroy coral reefs and habitats; and increase the incidence of certain diseases.

And to see the broader context from which ads like these spring, check out Chris Mooney’s The Republican War on Science.

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